Image by Isvac on DeviantArt found here.
I have therapy homework to do this morning. I finally have some true alone time after almost a several days of taking care of a child having a moderate vaccine reaction and then a weekend in which I was resting to ease the fibro flare that began after doing a little yard work. My kids have been at school for 2 hours and I’ve written a long email to a friend in Pennsylvania, gone out to smoke several times and wandered through several blog posts by another WordPress user I admire and respect. And now I’m writing about the writing I’m afraid to do for therapy.
Thankfully, age has given me the wisdom to trust that these meandering paths to work are often the most effective. If I were to come home from dropping my kids off and dive directly into trauma work, I’d probably trigger anxiety or hypoarousal. I’ve had a lot of experience carefully treading the path to confronting trauma; visit the comfortable, share a little with someone safe and establish a strong sense of the Now, imbibe that which feels good and something else that provides nutrients, take a random turn and end up discovering someone else courageously doing the work I’m about to engage in, and finally write to remind myself of my capability and the infinite number of fellow travelers walking ‘alongside’ me.
I am Here Now.
I can Feel Pleasure.
I can Feed Myself Goodness.
I am Capable of Facing My Trauma.
I am in Good Company.
It still feel terrifying to willingly enter awareness of my trauma because I can never be certain what will arise and how I’ll feel during the work and directly afterwards. But as I said to my friend in the email this morning: I choose over and over and over again to be uncomfortable so that I might live with less cognitive distortion and triggering. I wouldn’t keep doing it if I weren’t sure those things will decrease. What continues to surprise me is how much distortion and capacity for triggering I must have in order to do this work year after year and still have more work to do.
And that is part of why I’m delaying, though it’s more accurate to use the term circumambulating; if I were to go directly into the trauma work I would probably be overwhelmed and I would also miss much of what I would easily have access to if I first circle around the problem with intention and awareness. The process is one of gathering strength and will because it consists of wandering about first and finding the tools needed to face what feels unfaceable and see what is true and what is false belief. And as I circle I also pick up the tools I’ll need to dismantle old beliefs and build something more realistic, secure and flexible.
Right now in Cognitive Processing Therapy I’m in part 8, which as best I can tell, is about focusing on specific identified automatic negative thoughts by looking at past traumatic events. Events are described and thoughts, beliefs and emotions are included in the descriptions. The primary automatic negative thought which reinforced the trauma is identified, challenged and then alternative beliefs and thoughts are put forth. I’ve practiced this process with recent events which triggered heightened emotional states and found it to be very effective in shifting how I perceive both myself and my environment. Now the task is to choose one traumatic situation from my past which was defined by beliefs around safety and: 1. Explore how that event reinforced beliefs around safety formed during the sexual abuse trauma that occurred during my childhood; 2. identify which patterns of problematic thinking; and 3. create a statement that will challenge the beliefs about safety with alternative thoughts and beliefs which are more realistic.
Update…It’s now Wednesday evening and I still haven’t done all of the writing. I have therapy tomorrow so I’ll be doing it last minute, which is not uncommon. It’s very hard to willingly look closely at the terrible things which happened to me during the first 22 years of my life. The more I look. the more I remember and there’s so much I don’t want to be reminded of. But when I do look I always feel validated; the C-PTSD symptoms I experience have been, and sometimes still are, debilitating and when I remember the horrors I more easily accept the physical, emotional and cognitive ways I have been affected.